The Catch, review: Jason Watkins keeps this second level thriller going

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Television drama is governed by immutable laws. You know the sort of thing. If someone turns to their partner and sighs, “I’ve never been happier in my life!” they are run over by a bus soon after. If a character is played by James Nesbitt, he will be irresistible to women. And if someone says their parents died in a tragic accident, they are lying. The last of these came in The catch (Channel 5).

It’s one of those second-tier thrillers that broadcasters do so well – rages on, doesn’t tax the brain, won’t be on a Bafta shortlist, but it’s an enjoyable, easygoing watch with plenty of twists and turns you might or don’t see it coming. It’s the TV equivalent of a page turn – this is an adaptation of a TM Logan novel – and after watching all three episodes, I can tell you it descends into histrionics in the last half hour.

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The book is set in Derbyshire, but the TV version has decided to take the title literally and move things to a Cornish fishing village, allowing for a lot of coastal drone footage. It’s elevated by the casting, led by Jason Watkins as Ed Collier, a father who takes an instant dislike for his daughter’s smooth-talking new boyfriend. The central question is whether the friend (Aneurin Barnard) is a wrong man with sinister motives, or whether Watkins is misinterpreting everything because he is still haunted by grief over the death of his 10-year-old son, who has left him insanely over-anxious if the is about his now adult daughter. And is Watkins all he seems to be, or is he hiding dark secrets of his own? You’ll just have to keep tuning in to find out.

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In a supporting role, the wonderful Brenda Fricker stars as Ed’s mother-in-law, who shows signs of dementia yet remains the smartest member of the family (not hard in this family, granted). Watching her perform so accurately in The Catch made me wonder why Fricker isn’t a bigger star – remember when she won an Oscar in 1990 for My Left Foot? – and that led me to an interview she did for Irish television in 2021, in which she talked about her lifelong battle with depression. “Going out the front door can sometimes be a problem for me,” she said. “But I’m stepping back into the big world now.” She was best in last year’s Graham Norton adaptation, Holding, and now best in The Catch.

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